Americans still afraid of fully autonomous vehicles, AAA study finds
AAA study found that Americans are receptive to the idea of automated vehicle technology in more limited applications
Three in four Americas remain afraid of fully self-driving cars, following a number of high-profile safety incidents involving automated vehicles in 2018, according to a new study by the American Automobile Association (AAA).
AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey found that 71% of people in the U.S. are afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles – indicating that overall sentiment has not yet returned to what it was prior to these incidents occurring (63%).
In March 2018, Uber pulled its self-driving vehicles from the roads after one of its autonomous vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Uber has been testing its autonomous cars in the Phoenix area as well as in San Francisco, Toronto and Pittsburgh.
In its study, AAA said that the key to helping consumers feel more comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles will be bridging the gap between the perception of automated vehicle technology and the reality of how it actually works in today’s cars.
“Automated vehicle technology is evolving on a very public stage and, as a result, it is affecting how consumers feel about it,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations. “Having the opportunity to interact with partially or fully automated vehicle technology will help remove some of the mystery for consumers and open the door for greater acceptance.”
AAA’s recent survey revealed that regular interaction with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) components like assistance staying in-lane, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking significantly improves consumer comfort level. On average, drivers who have one of these four ADAS technologies are about 68% more likely to trust these features than drivers who don’t have them.
AAA also found that Americans are receptive to the idea of automated vehicle technology in more limited applications. About half (53%) are comfortable with low-speed, short distance forms of transportation like people movers found at airports or theme parks; 44% are comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles for delivery of food or packages.
“Despite fears still running high, AAA’s study also shows that Americans are willing to take baby steps toward incorporating this type of technology into their lives,” said Brannon. “Hands-on exposure in more controlled, low-risk environments coupled with stronger education will play a key role in easing fears about self-driving cars.”
Recently, AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, in partnership with the city of Las Vegas, Keolis North America and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), piloted what it claimed to be the first and largest self-driving shuttle for the public to operate in live traffic.
Currently, more than half of Americans (55%) think that by 2029, most cars will have the ability to drive themselves, however, this timeline may be overly optimistic given the number of vehicles already on the road today. Those who are skeptical that fully self-driving cars will arrive so soon cite reasons such as lack of trust, not wanting to give up driving, the technology won’t be ready or road conditions will not be good enough to support the technology.
While experts agree that a fully self-driving fleet is still decades away, it is likely that more highly automated vehicles will be on the roads in the coming years. AAA said that it believes that the more drivers understand both the benefits and limitations of the technology that is currently available, the more prepared and receptive they will be for the experience of riding in a fully automated vehicle when the time comes.